Check me out! I’m on holiday in Budapest!
I finished reading The Hunger Games while I was away, in the precious few minutes we had away from the group – I’d elected to take the “free time” option on one afternoon rather than join another organised activity. It reminded me of the Victor Kelleher novels I enjoyed greatly as a YA myself. And the trilogy got me thinking about the nature of emotional & psychological trauma, what inflicts it and what it takes to recover from it. I’m only now beginning to recognise how wounded I was by my assorted health problems. I felt strong, I felt like a survivor, and after each episode of ill health I picked myself up & kept moving forwards. But when I look back now, I can see the scars. The fact it was two years before I could talk about my three months in hospital with Crohns without crying. That the jobs I took after Uni were ones that were below my potential, didn’t stretch or challenge me. The way I felt burned out inside, unable to feel emotion, to sympathise or empathise. Even the way I considered my relationship with the man I would go on to marry. It wasn’t that I feared my problems would make me unacceptable to me – it was that I worried that he didn’t understand what he was getting himself into. Like Katniss, I worried that I was too much of a survivor – too heartless, making my decisions based selfishly on my own needs. I worried that I was choosing to marry because of what he could offer me – security, financial support when I was unwell, and so on – rather than because we were “meant to be together”. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Worried that eventually he would come to resent having to support me. Unlike Katniss, I came eventually to the conclusion that I had to have a little faith. Faith in him, that what he was offering me was offered freely and willingly. Faith in myself, that I was essentially a Good Person and would employ my practical, pragmatic mind to make decisions that would benefit the both of us. Faith that everything would be alright in the end. Like Katniss, too, I make lists in my head to fend off the bad black days – not lists of evidence that people are capable of good, but evidence that I am valued and valuable and worthwhile. Evidence that my life will not become a long tale of exhaustion and pain, lost opportunities and wasted potential. Evidence that despite the things that still surprise me I can function in society. Like when during a presentation at work someone showed a picture of a young man bruised and battered and scarred from months on Total Parenteral Nutrition. Suddenly all I could see were my feet, thin and pale and bruised from tripping on the drip stand while on TPN myself, cut where I’d hit the sharp corners of its metal spokes – and in the middle of a room full of my colleagues I was fighting tears from the many memories of feeling weak and vulnerable and without hope.
A survivor, yes. But still healing. I might as well accept that.